Imagine: Barcoding all life as we know it and a currently incurable disease best described as a merciless killer. These are two stories totally independent of one another minus their success as being AAAS Science Journalism Award Recipients - and with good reason.
Reporter Gary Wolf of Wired Magazine and staff writer Amie Thompson of the small newspaper known as Great Falls Tribune of Montana, contribute to the world of professional science journalism by reporting on two stories with different topics and target audiences, offering comparable intensity and grace in content and flow of information.
Wolf's story discusses the current “barcoding” of hard-to-identify creatures of the animal kingdom. Paul Herbert of the University of Guelph, Canada, has created an “automatic animal-identifying machine”. Not as impossible as it sounds, according to Herbert's story. By taking a section of DNA from an organism with the help of the lepidopterist Dan Janzen and his vast insect collection out of Costa Rican forests, Herbert was able to successfully begin the long but reliable process of identifying and documenting all living creatures. Though not without scrutiny, Herbert and Janzen both have visions of pocket sized organism-identifying machines in the future.
Thompson reports on a disease known as PPND that has reeked havoc on the lives of the people carrying its characteristic genetic deformity. Symptoms of this disease seem to only be visible in those over 40 years of age, giving a carrier ample time to pass it on to their children. Complete with the sad story of one woman's life and death at PPND's hand as well as pictures, Thompson delivers a heart-wrenching story that will hopefully make PPND patients suffering more visible to the medical world.
Gary Wolf: A Simple Plan to ID Every Creature on Earth
Amie Thompson: Lethal legacy: Rare disease devastating Turner-area family